Winter has arrived in full force here in the western United States with plenty of snow gracing the Rocky Mountains. While most winter athletes focus on bombing through fresh powder on their skis or snowboards, snowshoeing is a quieter, less expensive winter sport that families can enjoy together and beginners can jump right into it without lessons or lift lines. Gear requirements are minimal and there is a limitless supply of trails coursing through varied and beautiful mountain terrain for snowshoers to enjoy. Perhaps best of all, it is a sport that offers participants a wide range of possibilities for all ages, from slow, quiet nature walks in the woods to hard-core, fast paced races against serious athletes. Either way, it can extend your running season or keep you in shape for summer hiking and biking and even for skiing and snowboarding.
For those new to snowshoeing there are a few important considerations to keep in mind before that first trek:
1.Beginners should choose an all-around snowshoe that will handle different snow depths and terrain types. Snowshoes come in a wide range of sizes, widths and lengths, from short, narrow models for an all-out sprint across a packed and groomed race course to long, wide types for a backcountry trek through deep powder. Beginners should focus on the middle of that spectrum.
2.Footwear is important. Quality waterproof, insulated leather or synthetic hiking boots offer mobility and support. In deeper snow, gaiters will keep you dry. As with hiking, a merino wool sock will wick away sweat and keep your feet warm and comfortable.
3.Trekking poles offer balance and support, preventing unwanted plunges into deep snow drifts. Adjustable poles are ideal for tackling climbs and descents. They also encourage you to use your arms as part of the exercise, providing a better workout. Set the length so your elbow is bent comfortably.
4.Dress the part. Layer for the ideal balance of warmth and comfort. Snowshoeing is an active sport and you’ll build up a sweat. Look for good lightweight or mid-weight base layers that wick moisture and breathe well. Soft shell jackets and pants will shed snow and keep out the wind, without causing you to overheat.
5.Start slow. Avoid steep terrain and look for well-packed trails at first. Practice widening your stance to accommodate your snowshoes. Initially, it will feel awkward, but soon you will develop the proper gait for covering ground and you will be able to take advantage of the benefits snowshoes offer. Deep snow that causes challenges for Nordic skiers is no problem. Snowshoes are a very stable platform compared to just boots or cross country skis. Those crampons create superior traction when going up or downhill.
For those first few outings before hitting the backcountry, ski resorts often have trails designated for Nordic skiers and snowshoeing. The U.S. Forest Service, state parks and even city parks are great places to get into the woods on established trails.
6.When going uphill, lean slightly forward, place your poles in front and use your toe crampons for traction. Many snowshoes also have a heel lift feature that makes going uphill easier.
7.While descending downhill, keep your weight slightly back and allow your knees to relax and bend slightly. Some snowshoes have a heel crampon for downhill traction. If you’d like a little extra confidence on the descent, opt for one of these models.
8.As you would on any hike, carry a backpack with water and snacks, an extra layer, cell phone, and a small first aid kit. Use common sense and snowshoe with a partner or let someone know which trailhead you have departed from.
9.Avoid creek crossings or off trail steep areas where snow slides are a possibility.
10.If you fall, don’t panic, it does feel awkward. Try to fall to the side and then slide your feet under your before trying to get back up. If necessary unstrap and start over.
Snowshoeing is a fun winter pastime that can be enjoyed by everyone. If you can walk, you can snowshoe, but, if you’d like a some extra help in finding just the right trail for you, book a guided snowshoe tour with White Pine Touring, Jans’ guide service.
So this year, take a break from the busy ski slopes, and see what nature has to offer with a peaceful winter snowshoeing session. For the best advice on how to choose the size and style of your own pair of snowshoes, consult the experts at Jans or White PIne Touring
Brody Henderson, Content Writer